Ayodeji Ibrahim Oluokun, a pastor, was found guilty and given a two-year prison sentence by Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Special Offenses Court in Ikeja, Lagos.
On Tuesday, September 21, 2022, the associate pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), City of David Parish, Victoria Island, was imprisoned.
Oluokun’s conviction followed his arraignment on a revised six-count charge on January 19, 2019, by the EFCC’s Lagos Zonal Command, together with his company, Peak Petroleum Industry Nigeria Limited, for the issuing of fake checks, theft, and receiving $1.6 million under false pretenses.
The prosecution has successfully proven the accusation of issuing a bad check against the defendants, according to Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo’s ruling.
However, Taiwo cleared the defendants of the charges of theft and getting money through deception.
“The defendant issued the notional complainant two checks totaling $1.6 million, but they were returned because there was no money in the defendant’s account. Issuing a check without credit is strictly punishable, according to Taiwo.
“The defendant would have waited until he received the money before issuing the check on June 24, 2014, if the defendant was actually expecting some money till the end of July 2014 as he claimed,”
The first defendant, according to the judge, was aware of all of these circumstances yet still decided to issue the check dated June 24, 2014.
“This court believes that the defendant purposefully issued the counterfeit check. He is hereby declared guilty of issuing a fake check in counts one and two.
“However, because the prosecution was unable to prove its case, the defendants were released and found not guilty of theft and acquiring money by deception, she said.
The first defendant received a sentence of two years in prison or a fine of N2 million, and the second defendant received a penalty of N2 million in fine.
She mandated that the offender pay 1.6 million dollars in restitution to the nominal complainant within 18 months. The defence counsel, Mr Edoka Onyeke, in his allocutus, prayed the court to grant the convict a non-custodial sentence, adding that he was a pastor and could use his pastoral work as service to humanity, through community service.
“My lord, apart from the defendant being a first offender, if he is incarcerated, he will not be able to carry out the necessary things on behalf of the second defendant so as to make the restitution easy.
“The first defendant is a pastor of a church. This is a very good opportunity for him to engage in community service instead of a custodian sentence so as to preach the word of God. On a final note, the defendant has promised to involve the nominal complainant in order to make the restitution,” Onyeke said.
Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Samuel Daji, however, urged the court to convict the defendants as charged.
He argued that the convict and the nominal complainant had not been on talking terms, thereby making the terms of restitution difficult to meet.
He also prayed the court to order the defendant to forfeit his property in order to pay up the debt.
“My lord, from the evidence before this court, the defendant is not committed. It has been nine good years my lord. A dollar was N150 at the time the loan was granted to the defendant. The defendant does not even greet the nominal complainant unless it is of utmost necessity.
“There is an evidence that the defendants never want to settle this case. The defence counsel said he is a pastor. My lord, the more reason he should be given a custodial sentence in order to serve as a deterrent to others.
“The court has stated mandatory sentence. We shall be asking for restitution. I shall be urging the court to order the defendant to forfeit his property so as to use it to pay his debt,” Daji said.
The EFCC counsel had submitted that the defendant issued a Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Ltd. cheque of 1.6 million dollars payable to GOSL Nigeria Ltd.
He said when presented for payment, the cheque was dishonoured on the ground that there were no sufficient funds standing to the credit of the account on which the cheque was drawn.
The offences contravened Sections 1(1) (b) of the Dishonoured Cheques (Offences) Act, Cap D 11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and Section 285 (1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State and section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences.